Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace

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Monday, June 7, 2021

Mitford Family Pets

I've been familiar with the Mitford family since college, when I first read Nancy Mitford The Pursuit of Love and then just had to go on a deep dive into the infamous family.

For the past nearly two years, I've had the pleasure of digging even further into the family while researching my forthcoming novel THE MAYFAIR BOOKSHOP.

Side note here, I am SO EXCITED for this book to release, and I will be sharing all of the details here on History Undressed soon, including the cover! The novel is a dual timeline with a modern day book curator who has a connection to Nancy, and then the second point of view is Nancy herself. I've had some really great feedback from early readers!

So back to my topic today...

The Mitfords LOVED their pets. Nancy had a number of dogs, and loved French bulldogs so much, as did most of the family. There are so many fun stories about their pets when they were going up of which they had a veritable menagerie. In the family photo below you can see a couple of cute pets. Nancy is in the top row, sitting down on the left with her dog.

Not shown were the chickens, ponies, goats, etc... Several of Nancy's dogs make appearances in THE MAYFAIR BOOKSHOP. I'm a sucker for dogs, what can I say?

Fun pet fact...
Unity Mitford, on the left in the bottom row with two braids (also later in life to be a friend, and rumored mistress to Hitler), also had a pet rat named Ratular, that she would sneak into debutante balls along with her snake Enid to torment the other girls. Nice, right?

I tried to find a picture of her with her rat but alas, I have had no luck. I know I've seen it somewhere, so when I find it, I will update!

Do you have any pets? I have a Newfie, a lab/newf mix, a turtle and a hermit crab <3



Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Women of the Jacobite Rebellion and the Prince Charlie's Angels Series

When I first imagined the concept behind this series, I knew I wanted to create a cast of incredibly brave female heroines who would have to risk nearly everything for the good of their country and their future king. The Jacobite era of Great Britain’s history is the last civil war fought on the united soils of Scotland and England, ultimately coming to rest in a rather tragic ending for many. 

I wanted to incorporate their bravery, tenacity, and enthusiasm for their cause and their loyalty to a prince they wanted to be king, so I used many of their stories when creating those within this series.These women are often lost to history despite having played such a pivotal role during the time. They were spies, messengers, healers, soldiers, smugglers. They helped in whatever way they could to bring the rightful heir--Bonnie Prince Charlie--back to Scotland where he could rule as regent for his father. 

Now you may ask, how did you come up with the series title? Obviously, its a play on Charlie's Angels, but Bonnie Prince Charlie had some angels of his own! There is a fun rumor that the Christmas carol “O Come, All Ye Faithful” was in fact a Jacobite call to arms, and that the line “come and behold Him, born the king of angels” was code for “come and behold him, born the king of the English”—­who just so happened to be Bonnie Prince Charlie. Allegedly the Latin verse was actually a celebration of the prince’s birth rather than of Jesus’s, all connotation of which was lost when it was translated in the nineteenth century. Learning that his people were nicknamed angels, it seemed a fun theme to incorporate into the series: Prince Charlie’s Angels. 


Now, of course, my novels are fiction, so each of my heroines are based on the women rebels, and more than one. I also put a romance swing on each, because after all, I do love a good Scottish romance, and because I believed that each of these women deserved a happily-ever-after. 

Below you'll find listed each of my heroines and who I based them on.


Anne Mackintosh

Jenny

In The Rebel Wears Plaid, Jenny's story has a flavor of the lives of Lady Anne (Farquharson) Mackintosh, Jenny Cameron and Lady Margaret Ogilvy, who raised troops, collected funds and weapons for the rebels, fought in battles, and aided men in escaping the wrath of their enemies.

Jenny is a rebel soldier herself. She goes against her brother who has sided with the Hanoverian throne, and gives her support to the Stuarts, making a pact with her friends and clan that they will do whatever it takes to see that Bonnie Prince Charlie is returned to his rightful place on the throne. She raises an army, weapons, coin, night after night, and even saves the prince's life. She's not afraid to ride into battle, or thwart the enemy.
Winifred Maxwell


Annie

In Truly Madly Plaid, Annie's story is based loosely on Anne MacKay, Anne Leith and Lady Winifred Maxwell, who risked their lives to protect Jacobite soldiers by healing them and aiding in their escape.

Annie has been joining the war camps for some time, mending the men injured in battles and skirmishes. While she can defend herself, she's not a soldier. Her best talents are to heal those who can win the war. On the heals of the Battle of Culloden, her calling pulls her to the battlefield, and she does what she knows best--heals the men she can. And when her bravery is put to the test, she'll face down the enemy, and keep the men she's saved well hidden.


Flora Macdonald


Fiona

In You've Got Plaid, you will find Fiona's story to have a flavor of the lives of Flora Macdonald, Barbara Strachan, Anne Leith and the countess unnamed women who risked their lives to deliver messages to their male Jacobite counterparts.

By day, Fiona is a postmistress for the Hanoverian government, which helps her gain insider knowledge that she can then smuggle to her fellow Jacobite rebels. By night, to the rebels, she is known as The Phantom. Fiona is fearless, spending hours, days traveling alone through the Highlands. But then, she is given her most precious package to deliver yet--the prince himself.




Want to read the books? Check them out on my website!

Jenny's story, The Rebel Wears Plaid

Annie's story, Truly Madly Plaid

Fiona's story, You've Got Plaid

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Kate Quinn's THE ROSE CODE -- Out Today!

I’m so excited about Kate Quinn's fantastic new novel THE ROSE CODE, all about the unsung women codebreakers of Bletchley Park! It's a heart-stopping tale of three friends-turned-enemies who must reunite postwar to crack one last code and root out the spy in their midst. 








ABOUT THE BOOK:

 

1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart.

 

1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter--the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger--and their true enemy--closer...

 

CHECK OUT THIS INCREDIBLE BOOK TRAILER!




Order your copy today: 

Book: https://smarturl.it/RoseCode

Ebook: https://smarturl.it/RoseCodeEB

Audio: https://smarturl.it/RoseCodeAudio

 

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Happy Valentine's Day! And a Bit of History


Happy Valentine’s Day! 


What *is* this day we celebrate every February 14th with cards, chocolates, flowers and words of love? Believe it or not, this day of love is not something drummed up by modern culture. In fact it’s been around for hundreds of years. There is not one specific Saint Valentine that can be attributed to the holiday as the Catholic Church recognizes three sainted Valentine’s, all martyred. Here is where legends come in to form where the celebration of love was derived on this saint day. 

 

One legend states that in Rome, Emperor Claudius II (3rd century) banned young men from marrying so he could use them as soldiers to fight his wars. A local priest named Valentine rebelled by secretly marrying young couples in love.  When his treachery was discovered, he was executed.

 

Yet, another legend decrees that Valentine while in prison sent the first Valentine’s card himself to a woman who was his beloved, and signed it, “From Your Valentine”.

 

Why February? Some suggest it is because this is the anniversary of Valentine’s death. Others say that it is because when the Roman’s were trying to convert Pagans to Christianity, they chose a date that coincided with the Lupercalia Festival (a festival celebrated between February 13th and 15th that was meant to chase away evil spirits to release health and fertility.) Judging from how many Christian holidays and saint days fall on or around Pagan celebration days, it would be my guess that the latter was the beginning of it, and the legends created afterward—but that is only my opinion.

 

It was in the year 498 A.D., Pope Gelasius declared that February 14th was Saint Valentine’s Day.

 

It is said prior to Chaucer that links to Saint Valentine and February celebrations were mostly about sacrifice and not love. In 1382, Chaucer recorded what is noted as the first indication of Valentine’s Day being romantic. Now, is that to say that there were not previous stories told? No. It just means this is the first piece recorded and used as evidence of an origin date. The problem with history is that we are only as good as the facts we have on hand…

 

Here is what Chaucer wrote in Parlement of Foules (yr. 1382):

“For this was on seynt Volantynys dayWhan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.”

(Translates as: For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird comes there to choose his mate.”)

Perhaps this is where we get the term, “love birds”?


The oldest Valentine’s Day card still in existence today, was written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, in 1415. He wrote the poem for his wife while imprisoned in the Tower of London after the Battle of Agincourt (French and English battle took place in Agincourt, France—English, by what some deem a miracle, won.). The card can be seen at the British Library in London, as part of the manuscript collection. Here is an excerpt:

 

Je suis desja d'amour tannéMa tres doulce Valentinée...

 

(Translates as: I am already sick of love, my very gentle Valentine.)

 

Shakespeare, in the 16th century, even noted the love-day holiday in his play, Hamlet (Act IV, Scene 5)

 

To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,All in the morning betime,And I a maid at your window,To be your Valentine.Then up he rose, and donn'd his clothes,And dupp'd the chamber-door;Let in the maid, that out a maidNever departed more.

 

In the 17th century Valentine’s Day became even more popular, another chance for not only courtly love to endure, but every one to celebrate love and romance. By the 1700’s pre-made cards became available for purchase. In strict contrast to the romantic period of the 15th and 16th centuries, during the 18th and 19th centuries, expressing ones emotions was frowned upon. Cards that were already made with devotions and admonishments were eagerly grabbed up and given to those who wanted to share romance and love.

 

 

In the 1840’s mass-printed Valentine’s Day cards became available in the United States when Esther A. Howland created her beribboned, laced cards.

 

One of my ALL TIME favorite poems about love was written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (and one of the reasons I took 18th and 19th century Lit in college), here it is:

 

How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)

 

How Do I Love Thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of Being an ideal Grace.

I love thee to the level of everyday's

Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.

I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;

I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

 

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints,- I love thee with the Breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life!- and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

 


So, for those of you who are skeptics that Valentine’s Day was created to make those in the flower, chocolate, card and jewelry business money, YOU’RE WRONG. While those industries may very well benefit every February, this traditional holiday of expressing one’s romantic feelings dates back hundreds and hundreds of years. For those of you who can’t wait to find the perfect card, or to write the most wondrous poem, I bow to you. Keep the tradition alive and celebrate love to the fullest!  But most of all, celebrate that we have the ability to love, and that in this modern age, we can voice it if we want to.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!  What will you do on this special day?

Do you like podcasts? Check out this podcast I did with my pals, Madeline Martin and Lori Ann Bailey!